Camp Living Wonders has earned a reputation as an innovator in providing a summer home and community for people with cognitive and developmental disabilities. Now it’s trying to take innovation to another level by sponsoring a maker event.
The camp is partnering with the University of Florida Hillel on the launch of BuildUp, a weekend event to create devices that could enhance the lives of people with physical, developmental or mental disabilities.
Students in engineering and special education will have 24 hours to create a prototype that addresses one or more of four major issues faced by Living Wonders’ population, camp Director
The event will take place at UF Hillel from Friday to Sunday, Feb. 19 to 21, and thus will be a part of Jewish Disability Awareness and Inclusion Month.
In what Pawliger said is a pilot he hopes will be repeated at other universities, students and community members will brainstorm, pitch ideas and develop products.
American and Israeli entrepreneurs will attend the event to mentor the teams, which will have the opportunity to pitch their ideas to entrepreneurs and investment bankers. Pawliger said he hopes Israeli companies will produce some of the prototypes.
He said BuildUp offers a chance to answer big questions while promoting Jewish organizations and businesses and boosting Israel. “People need to see all the great things coming from the Jewish people because the Jewish people are doing great things.”
Pawliger and Rabbi Adam Grossman, the CEO of UF Hillel, came up with the idea of BuildUp. They became connected through their involvement in the Jewish innovation accelerator organization UpStart.
“Beyond the start of companies and the creation of products that could drastically help people, we hope this offers inspiration for individuals to continue to develop, build and experiment with ideas that impact our world for the greater good,” Rabbi Grossman said.
Aside from the big-picture goals, Pawliger said Camp Living Wonders is involved in BuildUp because it needs innovative devices to help its special needs population lead normal lives.
“The truest form of inclusion is when we give people with challenges the tools and empowerment to include themselves,” Pawliger said. “After all, without them, our community is not complete. Through opportunities like BuildUp, we are communicating to them, ‘We need you, you are part of us, and we are going to give you what you need to make us whole again.’ ”
If the weekend goes well, he said, he hopes the next BuildUp-type event will take place at Georgia Tech.